THIS BIRDING LIFE: Black Skimmers- My Enigma Bird

Story and Photos by Budd Titlow

A colony of black skimmers holds tight against a gusty wind on a beach in Florida’s Fort De Soto Municipal Park. © Budd Titlow

A colony of black skimmers holds tight against a gusty wind on a beach in Florida’s Fort De Soto Municipal Park. © Budd Titlow

Black skimmers are my enigma bird. Just when I think they couldn’t possibly be around, they show up in droves. Then when I think it’s a perfect day to see some, they’re nowhere to be found. Continue reading

Use Flash to Light the Landscape

Story and photos by John Gerlach

Devil’s Garden near Escalante © John Gerlach

Landscape photographers are exhilarated when a prominent portion of the landscape becomes illuminated with golden sunshine, especially when the sky directly behind it is a stormy dark gray. Unfortunately, these incredible displays of spectacular light are unpredictable and usually fleeting.   Fifteen years ago I decided to use my Canon Speedlite to provide the blast of light I needed to light a rock ten meters across a raging river. My first flash attempts were futile since the Speedlite didn’t add any additional light to the rock. I pondered the situation for a while and finally realized I had “murdered” my Speedlite. Using ISO 100, a polarizer, stopping down the lens to f/22, and allowing the camera to set the zoom on the Speedlite’s flash head to 24mm to match the lens being used all conspired to make it impossible to light an object only ten yards away. Continue reading

Which Lens Should I Bring?

"Peninsula Snow Sculpture" © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4x5)

Peninsula Snow Sculpture © Hank Erdmann Peninsula State Park, Door County, Wisconsin (90mm lens for 4×5)

Story and Photos by Hank Erdmann

“What lens should I bring (into the field with me)? Is a question I hear many, many times a year while conducting tours, classes and workshops. While I joke about this, often saying: “well, all of them”. To an experienced photographer the question on the surface seems silly. To be truthful however it is a very valid question, on more than one front. While I usually address the issue up front in classes before we hit the field, I and other experienced photographers should be more aware that this is not as obvious as we think it is. Continue reading

UAVs AND AERIAL PHOTOGRAPHY

Story and photography by Ralph Bendjebar

Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), otherwise known as drones, have been in the news a lot lately, not always on a positive note. Reported sightings near airports, sport stadiums and large crowds or urban settings have caused alarm and consternation from public officials and the FAA, which has led to negative and (sometimes) alarmist coverage from news organizations. Of course, the problem lies with inexperienced and reckless users rather than with the exciting technology these UAVs offer for the gathering of unique and useful images and footage.

Tanzania-31503

Using a drone in Tanzania.

As an avid landscape and wildlife photographer with a background in commercial aviation (my day job), I became intrigued with the possibilities of utilizing UAVs. They can be fitted with stabilized cameras to record images and footage not otherwise obtainable except at great expense with manned fixed-wing aircraft or rotorcraft. The rapid technological advances that enabled adaptation of this technology to small UAVs from their larger military cousins have produced capabilities that rival ground-based camera systems. The latest is the DJI Phantom 3, which allows stabilized 4K footage and 12 MP DNG files. It also provides full camera control through a controller-mounted tablet. The DJI Inspire 1 Pro is fitted with a MicroFourThirds (MFT) sensor that takes 4K video, 16 MP stills and has the unique feature of interchangeable lenses. Thus the capabilities for capturing exciting and memorable footage and images have become a reality.

Continue reading

FIELD TECHNIQUE: The Moon in the Morning

Story and photography by F.M. Kearney

T-138I enjoy shooting early on winter mornings. Besides capturing the beautiful light that occurs just before sunrise, I’m unencumbered by the masses of casual photographers and sightseers that tend to venture forth later in the day. Sometimes, however, I find that I’m out a little too early—long before sunrise or even the magic light of the day.

In the Northeast, too early means little more than bare branches dominate the scene. What initially might seem like a bleak subject, bare branches can reveal a multitude of creative options. Also, if the moon is out, it will shine like a beacon in the darkened sky and add even more interest to the shot. Continue reading

Beyond the Perfect Portrait

Story and Photography by D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

Alaskan brown bear © D. Robert Franz

 

 

Text and Images by D. Robert Franz

For many aspiring wildlife photographers capturing beautiful portraits of their favorite birds or animals in the wild is often their primary goal. This is certainly an understandable and a worthwhile endeavor. When I began photographing wildlife over thirty years ago, I was inspired by the striking wildlife photos of Leonard Lee Rue III and Erwin Bauer. I carefully studied how they used the light, controlled backgrounds, and placed their subjects in the frame to create pleasing wildlife portraits. I pursued the perfect wildlife portrait relentlessly and over time accumulated a large collection of. As time passed I became less and less satisfied with my wildlife photography. I desired more evocative images with impact. I felt as though I really needed to elevate my images to a higher level. I will discuss some of the methods I’ve used to achieve that goal and continue in my evolution as a wildlife photographer. Continue reading

HAVASUPAI REBORN, by Kerrick James

Havasu Falls and Rainbow

Havasu Falls and Rainbow

The landscape of the Colorado Plateau is ephemeral, a changeling, although to beings with short life spans this land seems immutable, a constant. But in canyon country stunning changes can occur in a single afternoon, altering the course of a stream, stranding a waterfall, even creating a new unheralded cascade. Thus, it has always been in Havasupai, named for the people of the blue-green water.

Havasupai, the mythic side canyon hidden well to the west of the South Rim summer mayhem and adjoining Grand Canyon National Park, has always been near the top of my favorite locations to photograph. I’ve been lucky to shoot this desert Shangri-la a dozen times since the late 70’s, with a progression of cameras from 4×5 to 67 Pentax to a variety of digital formats. For years I blithely assumed that the interwoven terraces of travertine below each of the three great waterfalls, Havasu, Navajo, and Mooney, would always be there to compose as one of the most artistic foregrounds imaginable. Continue reading

San Diego, the Summit, and the Chaparral by Rob Sheppard

Mariposa lily (Calochortus), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California. Image © Rob Sheppard.

Mariposa lily (Calochortus), Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, California. Image © Rob Sheppard.

Images and Text by Rob Sheppard

Rob Sheppard will be leading a Photo Walk in the California Shrublands on Thursday, February 19th from 9:00am – 12:00pm as part of the 2015 NANPA Summit in San Diego. Click here to learn more!

The NANPA Summit in 2015 is in lovely, mild San Diego. The Summit is a time to see old friends, connect with new friends, be enlightened and educated in all sorts of things related to nature photography, and even see new places through the photography of the presenters.

I am going to suggest that you take the opportunity to see and photograph something unique and special about nature while you are in San Diego or at least Southern California, something that you will not find in other parts of the country – the chaparral. This is an ecosystem, a landscape, a place of nature that is as ecologically unique as the redwoods, a place filled with biodiversity, and yet a landscape that is probably one of the least photographed of any important landscape in the country.

When people think of Southern California, so often, they only think of the big cities of Los Angeles and San Diego. Southern California, they believe, is just a place for surfers, celebrities, and a lot of cars! When I moved to the Los Angeles area over 20 years ago, many of my friends and family from Minnesota thought that I was moving to a barren, urban wasteland. Continue reading

Low Light Visions by Nevada Wier

© Nevada Wier 2014. Kerala, India: Fire dancer, Theyyam Festival. Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/125sec at f/3.5, ISO 1600 Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash not fired.

© Nevada Wier 2014.
Kerala, India: Fire dancer, Theyyam Festival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 16-35mm f/2.8, 1/125sec at f/3.5, ISO 1600
Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash not fired.

 

Nevada is one of the featured keynote speakers at the 2015 NANPA Summit taking place in San Diego, California from February 19th – 22nd. To learn more about the Summit and to register for this exciting and inspirational event, please visit  www.naturephotographysummit.com

 

Images and Story by Nevada Wier

Photographing in low light is particularly challenging, but immensely satisfying — if you can overcome the difficulties. However, it is these kinds of situations that stimulate me as a photographer. I know that it is these times when it is more possible to create what I call a “snowflake photo”: one that no one else has in his or her portfolio. So I seek out the difficult light and perspectives. Of course, that also means that the chance of failure is high; I have to work extra hard in these situations. I am on alert, paying attention, anticipating the action and seeking out whatever light is available.

One is definitely constrained by the quality of their equipment. Sorry, an iPhone is not going to be the camera of choice for photographing at night or inside a hut lit by a candle – unless you are going for an abstract with high noise. Many digital camera sensors are not able to produce a relatively noise-free image at an extremely high ISO. Unless you have a top-of-the-line camera that can handle 1600 ISO or more, the highest exploitable ISO for most cameras ranges between 400–1600 ISO. Another limiting factor is the lens. If you are using a zoom lens that has a minimum aperture of f/4.5, it is going to be problematic. Not only will you not have a fast enough shutter speed, the lens will not be able to quickly and accurately focus in dim light. And, it is critical to pay attention to the focusing. During the day in strong light focusing quickly is easy and accurate; it only takes a quick press of the focus button to be accurate (I use the back * button on my Canon for focusing and to set a specific focal point). In low light it is important to squeeze the focus button until you see the focus alert signal in the viewfinder. Sometimes I have to use manual assist. Occasionally I need to shine a flashlight on my subject so I can focus.

Sometimes I use flash but not for a primary source of light, rather to pop color or stop the action with a slow shutter speed. A flash is always a secondary source of light. I usually go to the highest ISO that I am comfortable using and on my Canon 5D MarkIII I rarely go above 1600 ISO; if I can I much prefer to stay at 800 ISO or lower. I photograph primarily on Shutter Priority, but in low light I sometimes switch to Aperture Priority when I want to stay at a wide-open aperture. However, I do like slow shutter speeds (and I’m not afraid to hand-hold at ½ sec. or slower) in combination with flash, either for panning or having a flash stop the action within a blur, so there is sharpness within a sense of motion. I carry a number of different gels for my flash so the flash outputs blends seamlessly with the ambient light. I usually keep my white balance on Daylight unless there is an abundance of red, and then I use Auto (red is a difficult color to desaturate, it tends towards purple).

I make sure my exposure is absolutely perfect; better too light than too dark. I constantly check my histogram. At a high ISO you do not want to have to lighten your image in post processing and expose ugly noise. Honestly, I rarely use a tripod. I don’t like to walk around with them. The photographs I’m showing you on this blog are all hand-held. In fast moving situations it is difficult to use a tripod, and in crowds – forget about it! Knowing how to use flash appropriately is a big key to success.

© Nevada Wier 2014. Barranquilla, Colombia: Carnival. Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/50sec at f/3.2, ISO 1600. Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.

© Nevada Wier 2014. Barranquilla, Colombia: Carnival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/50sec at f/3.2, ISO 1600.
Shutter Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.

I mentioned earlier that it is important to anticipate so that one can be in the front of a crowd. I am used to “wiggling” myself into a good location. There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive, but I don’t want to end up in the back of a huge crowd.

I expect a lot of failures; in fact I mostly have failures in these kinds of situations, as they are technically and often socially difficult. However, all I need is one great image! I try as many shutter speeds as possible; depth of field is not a critical concern to me at these times. I try slow shutter speeds with or without panning, usually with the flash on. I turn the flash off and work with natural light. I try everything! I always say, “If you don’t try, you don’t get”. And, often what one gets is that magical snowflake image.

© Nevada Wier 2013. Bagan, Myanmar: Ananada Festival. Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/100sec at f/4, ISO 1600. Aperture Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.

© Nevada Wier 2013. Bagan, Myanmar: Ananada Festival.
Canon 5DMarkIII, Canon 24 f/1.4, 1/100sec at f/4, ISO 1600.
Aperture Priority. Evaluative Metering. Daylight White Balance. Flash Fired.

 

Nevada Wier is a multiple award-winning photographer specializing in the remote corners of the globe and the cultures that inhabit them. Her journeys have her crisscrossing the world in search of compelling travel experiences and images. To read more about Nevada, view her extraordinary photography and get information about her photo workshops and tours, visit her website at www.nevadawier.com.